Montreal Impact v D.C. United

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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19. D.C. United – The U.S. Open Cup hangover wasn’t necessarily in effect … It just looked like it if you only saw the final score. United represented itself reasonably we’ll three nights after the big Open Cup triumph, but Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had one of the weekend’s top performances as the hosts went down at RFK, 3-0.

18. Chivas USA – The Goats have been mostly competitive, at very least, through the summer and into the fall, rarely getting onto the wrong side of a major beating. Well, they found themselves on the wrong side of a bad one Sunday as the Galaxy put a 5-0 beats own on the poor Goats.

17. Toronto FC – Toronto nearly split the points at PPL Park outside Philadelphia but fell to Kleberson’s free kick goal in stoppage time.

16. FC Dallas – Schellas Hyndman’s men had ample opportunity to re-insert themselves into the playoff fight with a man-advantage for 70 minutes at Real Salt Lake. Best they could muster was a 1-1 draw on Kenny Cooper’s goal.

15. Columbus – Federico Higuain’s hip injury reduced the Crew offense to bare bones, and a 1-0 loss at home to Sporting KC likely extinguishes the last embers of hope for playoff soccer around Crew Stadium.

14. New England Revolution – A second year without playoff soccer could put young manager Jay Heaps’ job in jeopardy. It would take something spectacular now, with the Revs probably needing to win out, which means prevailing twice on the road and once at home. Tim Cahill’s header deep into stoppage time (in a 2-2 draw with New York) altered so much.

13. Chicago Fire – Sean Johnson’s nine saves helped the Fire ride out a D.C. storm and gather all three points in a win at RFK Stadium. In fact, we are probably only talking about Frank Klopas’ team as a possible post-season participant because of Johnson’s mighty effort.

12. Vancouver Whitecaps – Camilo is right back into the Golden Boot hunt, now just one off Montreal pacesetter Marco Di Vaio. Plus, the Whitecaps’ Brazilian attacker is elevating the league MPV chatter after two goals, including one absolutely sensational overhead strike for the late equalizer, in the ‘Caps 2-2 draw with Portland. Unfortunately, Martin Rennie’s team needs seven points minimum (from three matches remaining) to get into the playoffs .. and even a maximum nine might not be enough.

11. Philadelphia Union – The Union offense still has issues, but Kleberson’s dramatic free kick winner in added time against Toronto did advance the Union back into playoff position for now. Kleberson will need to do a lot more to keep his DP acquisition from being labeled a huge bust, but that’s a heck of a start, at least.

(MORE: MLS Round 30 week in review)

10. Montreal Impact – The darlings of spring and summer in MLS might still back into the 2013 playoffs, but a 1-3-2 record in league matches over the last six weeks make it hard to like the Impact’s post-season chances. They fell in Houston on Friday, 1-0.

9. Houston Dynamo – Ricardo Clark’s sensational curler was the game-winner Friday over Montreal as the Dynamo continues to tick off the results at the right time of year. The Orange is 4-1-0 in all competitions over last month.

8. San Jose Earthquakes – The Earthquakes had a week to rest up before the final, big post-season push. The opportunity is there with three matches ahead, including this week’s contest at home against Colorado, the very team the Quakes must catch (or one of them, at least, and the most vulnerable target) to get back into the ‘second season.’

7. Sporting Kansas City – This may be the most difficult team to accurately assess. Peter Vermes’ side is well positioned for the playoffs thanks to a road win Saturday at Columbus. On the other hand, the only wins lately have come against Columbus (twice), Toronto, Colorado and New England. Of that bunch, only Colorado is likely to make the playoffs.

6. Seattle Sounders – Seattle did play better in the second half … so there’s that. But you have to wonder about a team that finds itself on the business end of this kind of beating (a 5-1 loss at Colorado); is this an aberration or a symptom of something worse? And what is up with Clint Dempsey’s hamstring?

5. Colorado Rapids – Rookies Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers both elevated their cases for league Rookie of the Year. Brown (who had two goals) even pulled within realistic striking distance of the all-time rookie scoring record in MLS. It was all part of a 5-1 win over Seattle, the best result yet under second-year coach Oscar Pareja, and one that will go far to getting the Rapids into the playoffs.

4. Real Salt Lake – Credit to Jason Kreis’ team for rallying past the massive U.S. Open Cup disappointment to get a credible weekend performance. If a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas (on Alvaro Saborio’s short-handed goal) doesn’t sound like big doings around Rio Tinto, consider that the hosts were a man down for 70 minutes.

3. Portland Timbers – A point earned in Vancouver (a 2-2 draw Sunday in a wonderfully entertaining contest) kept the Timbers in acceptable playoff positioning, still within reach of something truly special for the 2013 regular season. But it did take a great day at the office from goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (pictured above) to remain unbeaten in three years now at B.C. Place.

2. LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan’s record setting afternoon was the story of Major League Soccer’s 32nd round, but let’s not lose sight of the team’s bigger statement. A 5-0 win may need some context (it was just last-place Chivas USA, after all) but it surely serves notice that Bruce Arena’s team is serious about a three-peat bid, and has the capacity to potentially get there.

1. New York Red Bulls – Tim Cahill got off to a slow start in his New York days in terms of goal scoring. But who can deny his importance to the Red Bulls now, with one big goal after another? The Aussie international’s 97th minute header (yes, 97th minute!) gave New York the point it needed in a wild 2-2 draw with New England to make Cahill’s bunch the first, official playoff qualifier.

3 things we learned from the USMNT win over Canada

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - NOVEMBER 17: Jermaine Jones #13 keeps the ball in play during a World Cup Qualifier between Trinidad and Tobago and USA as part of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for Russia 2018 at Hasely Crawford Stadium on November 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo by Ashley Allen Getty Images)
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The United States played to a disjointed and sloppy win over Canada to wrap up January camp. It was promising at times, but mostly a cringe-worthy display by both sides. Here are the key notes from the 90 minutes at StubHub Center in California.

1) Jermaine Jones should never play CB again

Look, this probably wasn’t ever the plan, and it probably never is. It’s the “break glass in case of emergency” option. With Matt Miazga likely supposed to start one or both these games before he left for Chelsea, and the departure of Michael Orozco and Brad Evans, the U.S. was thin at the back.

Still. Yikes…

Jones was flat out awful. Just days after he played well in a midfield distribution position against Iceland, he was a total mess at the back. Jones was miserable on the ball, giving it away with ugly touches, he lunged in on challenges including one on Cyle Larin early that very well could have resulted in a Canadian penalty. And he charged forward – something a central defender can never do – leaving his teammates caught out at the back. This ended with Matt Besler getting a yellow card:

Please, Jurgen. Never again.

2) Jordan Morris is developing into a useful player

In his first cap since signing a professional contract with the Seattle Sounders, Morris gave his critics much to think on. Many said the 21-year-old would come and go without much staying power, but he partnered well with Jozy Altidore. There wasn’t much service up front during his time on the field, but when there was, Morris drew defenders off Altidore, and he provided a solid foil to his bigger partner with his speed and precision. He didn’t have many opportunities, but when he did, he made his presence known.

3) Playing players out of position very rarely bears fruit

Soccer coaches often have two choices at their disposal when building a lineup: either pick the best 11 players and position them into a formation that fits their skills best, or pick a formation and then select the 11 players that fit that formation the best. Klinsmann prefers neither. Instead, recently he’s been picking 11 players he wishes to play, choose a formation he feels will fit the opponent, and then tries to force the players he chose into the formation he selected.

It hasn’t worked, especially not today. He tried to force 3 center-backs onto the back line. He tried to force three central midfielders (and Zardes) into a flat four midfield that occasionally looked like a flat diamond. Neither worked. It’s an experimental environment, sure, but the benefits of his choices aren’t entirely clear.

We know what doesn’t work, but we still don’t really know what works, and isn’t the latter what January camp was for?

4) Jozy Altidore needs to work on his heading…oh

Bonus! So, as the game wound down, I had written that Jozy needed to work on his heading in front of net. The 26-year-old had a few headed opportunities in the box throughout the game, and he failed to capitalize. He looked to drill it into the ground on multiple occasions, but from the distance most of his efforts came from, he likely should have looked to aim his headed shots rather than use the ground pound technique.

Then, you know, he scored the late winner on a header. So, yeah. Never mind. But still. Yeah. Whatever.

United States 1-0 Canada: Altidore snatches late winner in sloppy meeting

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States battles with Steven Vitoria #15 of Canada during the first half of their international friendly soccer match at StubHub Center February 5, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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It was sloppy. It was sleepy. It was cringe-worthy at times. By the final whistle, Jozy Altidore refused to let it end goalless.

January USMNT camp wrapped up with an erratic, disjointed but successful 1-0 win over their northern neighbors as Jozy Altidore bagged a headed winner in the 89th minute.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann chose to start a number of players out of position, including a trio of central defenders along the back line and an odd midfield combination that sat back for much of the game. Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris partnered up front, and worked well with the sparse service they received.

Both back lines looked relatively shaky to start, and each midfield was sloppy under heavy pressure from the opposition. The first true chance came on 15 minutes as a beautiful touch with the outside of Gyasi Zardes’s foot found a cutting Jozy Altidore, and the forward’s shot beat Maxime Crepeau but crashed into the post. The ball then rebounded into the back of Crepeau and back off the post a second time before the Canadian goalkeeper finally collected.

Four minutes later, Canada had a penalty shout as Jermaine Jones lunged into the back of Cyle Larin who was attempting a volley from the top edge of the box, but the referee waved it off.

As those chances faded, the game became a snoozer and the U.S. attack devolved into long balls lumped forward. Jones was miserable at the back, looking completely out of position. Both Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud sat back in possession, leaving Lee Nguyen and Gyasi Zardes isolated up front with no wide threat.

The U.S. had another spell of attack before halftime. Altidore sprung Jordan Morris on the left edge of the box, but his chipped effort skittered just wide. Bradley tried a left-footed effort on net on 39 minutes, but his shot was easily saved low by Crepeau. Matt Besler earned a yellow card by clipping the heel of Larin just before the break, forced into the foul after Jones was caught out of position.

Thankfully, the first half ended. Klinsmann made one halftime change, bringing on Brandon Vincent for his first USMNT appearance in place of Kellyn Acosta, whom the manager said had a hamstring problem. The U.S. pushed forward early, and they had a 53rd minute chance when Diskerud lofted a ball to the far post where Altidore met it with his head, but he pushed an effort on goal just wide left, inches out of Morris’ reach.

Things settled until the 66th minute, when substitute Jerome Kiesewetter found Altidore in the box, but he drove it into the ground meekly. In the 70th minute some U.S. pressure bought a shot for Vincent, but it was saved well by Crepeau’s feet. Altidore had another big chance with six minutes to go, and he went for the off-balance chip that aged as it traveled through the air, slow enough to allow Crepeau to recover and slap it out of danger.

Klinsmann brought Morris off with just three minutes to go in regulation, bringing on Ethan Finlay, who had an instant impact. Finlay cut inside from the left and lofted a ball to the far post, one which Altidore lept to meet, finally finding the back of the net after having bungled a few earlier headed opportunities.

The win leaves the United States 2-0 in January camp, and despite a few clear deficiencies, the end results were there.

USMNT lineup vs Canada sees Jermaine Jones at CB, Morris and Altidore up front

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
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The United States takes on Canada for the second of two friendlies that test those involved in January camp. With Iceland already dispatched 3-2, Canada is next up, at 10:30 p.m. ET from the StubHub center in California.

Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen his lineup, and it’s not easily discernible.

[ MORE: Full preview United States vs Canada ]

The back line is the biggest head-scratcher, with three central defenders starting, and at least one of them out of position. Jermaine Jones, who performed well in a midfield distribution role against Iceland, has been moved back to the defensive line, partnering with Matt Besler. Steve Birnbaum, also a central defender who had ups and down against Iceland, is back in the lineup. There’s nowhere to fit a third central defender, so he will play out wide. Kellyn Acosta, a natural full-back, rounds out the back four.

In midfield, the personnel lends itself to a flat four, if only because there’s really no other way it can go. Again, a multitude of central defenders are deployed, with Michael Bradley, Lee Nguyen, and Mix Diskerud forming some kind of CM/CM/Winger combination (Nguyen is likely the odd man out wide), with Gyasi Zardes out wide on the other end.

[ MORE: 3 key battles for USMNT vs Canada ]

Jozy Altidore returns up front, this time to partner with Jordan Morris, who makes his first USMNT appearance as a professional player.

Finally, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham makes his USMNT debut between the sticks.

Jurgen Klopp says Daniel Sturridge is focused on getting healthy, not leaving Liverpool

during the Capital One Cup quarter final match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England.
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Jurgen Klopp has made his frustrations with Daniel Sturridge‘s injury history very clear, but he still knows the England international is a crucial part of his squad, and he will be patient, no matter how frustrating it is.

Sturridge has been out since early December, and has made just five appearances all season due to a number of recurring injuries that have sapped him of his consistency for the last two years.

But with the 26-year-old back in training the last two days, the English media has speculated that Sturridge is looking to leave Liverpool, and that the club is trying to rid themselves of him as well. Klopp does not see it that way.

[ RELATED: Daniel Sturridge says he’s “good to go” ]

“I have no feeling that Daniel is thinking like this so stop thinking about it,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference, speaking ahead of the match Saturday against Sunderland. “I spoke to him but not about this. I didn’t ask: ‘do you want to leave?’ “Why should I? He’s been back in training for two days. I don’t go over and say: ‘Daniel, I hear you want to leave? Is there truth in it?’ I don’t believe that it is like this.”

Klopp called the rumors a “non-story” and believes as soon as Sturridge is out on the field, the rumors will stop. He just has to get out on the field first.

“Since I was here I’ve had a normal relationship with Daniel Sturridge,” Klopp said. “The only problem is I have only had him 10 or 12 times on the training pitch – that is the truth. Now he is back we hope he can stay in team training and everything will be good. If everything is normal from now on then he is in the race.”

The German said that just having returned to training, Sturridge won’t be ready for Saturday’s game, but he could potentially be back to action for the FA Cup match against West Ham on Tuesday.